A few days ago, a musician friend was telling me how she had played Swadesi and Prakash Bhoir’s The Warli Revolt on loop for days after its release. It wasn’t just the music or the beautifully made video featuring animated Warli art (in the photo above) but also the strident, inescapable message from Bhoir, a member of the Warli tribe, trying to save their home, Mumbai’s Aarey forest. Warli art is familiar to most now as a motif on ceramic bowls and saris but the voices of the Warlis, who still have a deep connection to the disappearing forest, rarely reaches a wider audience. The Marathi and Hindi hip hop track changed this, and with the Mumbai Metro project threatening Aarey forest again, the track is back on playlists.
Also read: Songs for the earth: Music and environmental protests in India
Cynics may say playing a song on loop makes no difference to the planet, and maybe it doesn’t. We are all aware of climate change and environmental degradation; you would have to work really hard to deny it. Snatches of Greta Thunberg’s imploring speeches, or headlines about environmental norms being contravened, are around us, part of the noise of daily life. And that’s why it sometimes takes a song to filter through it all and get the message across.
In our cover story this week, we meet musicians who play for the cause of the environment, reminding people about the interconnectedness of all life. India has a long tradition of music inspired by nature and many of the biggest environmental movements of the past 50 years have been backgrounded by song. Music and lyrics can communicate complex topics and emotions more effectively than long speeches and travel beyond the circles within which activists live. Our response to music is primarily emotional, making songs a great medium for environmental action and education.
Other stories not to be missed in the issue include a report on Twitter’s “good bots” that put out everything from advice to cheery colours. Twitter can be quite a bog with its troll armies and divisive echo chambers but it also has isles of joy, like Tim Burgess’ listening party, on which we have a personal take. We also examine F1’s carbon footprint and its efforts to go net-zero. And as always, we have excellent recommendations on what to watch, eat and do.
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Also read: When covid and health talk crash the party